A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule cast off from the International Space Station and began heading back to Earth on Friday (Aug. 19), setting the stage for a weekend splashdown.
The uncrewed Dragon supply ship undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT) as both spacecraft sailed 259 miles above the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. The spacecraft will return to on Saturday (Aug. 20), NASA officials said.
"Goodbye to Dragon, thank you for all the supplies and science," NASA spacecraft communicator Michael Ellsworth radioed the station crew from Mission Control in Houston. "We're looking forward to your return to Earth."
"Congratulations to the team on a successful SpaceX-25 mission," NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins replied from aboard the space station. Video of the Dragon's undocking showed stunning views of the spacecraft pulling away from the ISS during an orbital sunrise.
The Dragon launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on July 14 and arrived at the ISS two days later with about 5,800 pounds (2,630 kilograms) of supplies and scientific hardware for the occupants of the orbiting lab. NASA and SpaceX originally hoped to undock the Dragon cargo ship on Thursday, but called off the departure due to poor weather at its splashdown site off the coast of Florida.
The freighter is scheduled to come back to Earth in an ocean splashdown off the Florida coast on Saturday at 2:53 p.m. EDT (1853 GMT), NASA officials said. It's packed for the return trip with roughly 4,000 pounds (1,815 kg) of experiments and other gear for researchers to analyze. NASA and SpaceX are not expected to livestream the landing, but will likely share updates on social media.
Dragon's current mission is called Commercial Resupply Services 25, or CRS-25 and SpaceX-25 for short. As that name suggests, it's the 25th contracted cargo flight that SpaceX has flown to the ISS for NASA.
SpaceX also holds a separate NASA deal to fly astronaut missions to and from the orbiting lab, which it does with the crewed version of Dragon. SpaceX is in the middle of the fourth of these astronaut missions, called Crew-4, and is scheduled to launch Crew-5 toward the end of September.
Editor's note: This story was updated on Aug. 19 with confirmation of a successful undocking of SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship from the space station.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).